What Happened to Rimowa’s electronic luggage tag?
While it’s frequent to see smart luggage upstarts on Kickstarter failing — it’s less expected from renowned international brands.
Announced with a fanfare, the Rimowa eTag was the next innovation in smart luggage accessories. However, less than two years after its introduction, the Rimowa eTag concept was quietly shelved from its website and discontinued leaving customers who had shelled out for expensive Rimowa Topaz luggage with inbuilt eTags smarting.
This short article will look at what the electronic smart tags were, why they were discontinued and look at some alternatives.
What was the Rimowa e-tag?
Launched in 2017 and in collaboration with Lufthansa the Rimowa eTag was a reusable smart luggage tag, enabling Rimowa users to check in their bags before reaching the airport — similarly to online check in.
Branded The Future of Travelling by Engadget the electronic tag promised to end long lines and queuing, alongside being more environmentally friendly than using single use paper tags.
It is essentially a digital ink screen — similar to those found on e-readers like the Kindle — that stayed permanently with your bag, displaying the barcode used by airlines to track your luggage.
Available as a standalone smart feature, or embedded within the Topaz series of luggage. Rimowa bags with eTag’s went on sale for €60 than their regular counterparts.
The eTag was available on the majority of Rimowa’s high-end luggage throughout 2016 and 2017, before being quietly shelved for the 2018 catalog.
eTag enabled bags are still available — some at a heavy discount — and while the electronic tag features no longer work as intended, they can still be used as a digital luggage tag. As a result, this can be a way of obtaining a high-end Rimowa suitcase at a discount.
Rimowa’s electronic tag enabled bags had a small toughened glass E-ink screen, powered by two AAA batteries, embedded in the side of the case.
The device could share data with your phone via bluetooth, and when out of range you could view your bags journey through supported airlines systems via the app — similar to QR code luggage tags. Finally, the nature of the e-ink screen meant that even if the batteries ran out, the barcode would stay displayed.
When Rimowa’s eTag worked, it was a clever piece of technology. Supporting airline EvaAir still have an online guide displaying photos of the application, but the steps are as follows:
- Use online check-in before you arrive at the airport
- Check in your luggage at the same time
- Transfer the luggage tags barcode to your suitcase
- Arrive at the airport and drop your bag off in a dedicated bag drop without having to queue
- Receive updates displaying your bags progress on connecting flights
The downfall of the eTag
There were three key reasons the eTag fell out of favour:
- Confusion over electronic tag banning
- A lack of airline support
- It didn’t solve enough problems
1. Confusion over electronic tag banning.
Swept up in the great smart luggage bans of 2017, Rimowa’s electronic bag tags were briefly banned by US airlines.
Rimowa’s suitcases with Bluetooth-enabled digital baggage tags are powered by a pair of AAA batteries, not a massive lithium-ion pack. But the presence of that electronic bag tag makes it a no-go under the new policies.AFAR — smart luggage bans
Whether the Rimowa eTag should have ever been banned was up for debate. The bans at the time were to cover smart luggage like Bluesmart, with inbuilt powerful lithium-ion batteries that couldn’t be removed.
- Rimowa’s eTag was powered by AAA batteries, which have never been banned on flights
- The electronic tag’s batteries were also removable
However, the short-lived ban by US airlines was enough to make many customers think twice about the longevity of this product.
2. A lack of airline support.
E-Tag luggage doesn’t appear in the most recent catalogue any more, stores in Germany are having sales offering discounts on e-tag bags and rarely any airline is supporting the system.
LoyaltyLobby — Discontinued Rimowa eTags
Initially launched in conjunction with Lufthansa, Rimowa’s bag tag started out only being accepted at 3 German airports: Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg.
Additional airlines, Eva Air, and Swissair later added support for the eTag, but a lack of integrated airline backing ultimately made using the eTag more of a hassle than traditional paper baggage tags.
3. It didn’t solve enough problems.
The final and arguably most important reason for the eTags downfall was simply that it didn’t really solve any problems.
All new smart luggage accessories sell themselves on making travel easier. In comparison to other smart tags available,
- QR code tags replace traditional luggage tags by storing your personal information more safely, and are an affordable, long-lasting version of paper or leather luggage tags.
- Tracking luggage tags like Bluetooth bag tags or GPS tags justify their existence by giving you an early heads up if your bags go missing, and helping you to locate them.
Rimowa’s electronic luggage tag promised to take away the inconvenience of queuing for a paper luggage tag and skip ahead of the queue’s.
However, the rising popularity of self-service machines at airports meant that there’s actually very few queues for checking in luggage. In addition, the tag introduced:
- The hassle of using a very poorly rated app
- Confusion surrounding legalities and the need to remove the batteries from the eTag before checking it in
- Not being compatible with many airlines or airports.
When you add all this up, it arguably caused more problems than it solved.
Summary — Electronic tags for the future
Ultimately, the execution of Rimowa’s electronic tag was too poor for a high-end brand. The app had atrocious reviews with a 1.25/5-star average, and customers frequently complained check-in staff weren’t trained to deal with the electronic luggage tags even on supporting airlines.
Despite this, the idea behind the app was sound. When it worked, the technology would remove queuing and speed up check-in, while removing the waste generated by printing thousands of paper baggage tags every day.
Arguably then, the Rimowa eTag was slightly ahead of its time. Now that rules surrounding smart luggage have been clarified, it is likely that there will be a return of this feature inbuilt into smart luggage of the future.
There has been widespread adoptance of GPS tags and Bluetooth baggage tags, with smart luggage owners keen to track their bags throughout their journey, so it’s ultimately a matter of time before these evolve into offering check in features too.